My Fair Lair

When I didn't have any friends, it made me feel like maybe I did.

Strange Spaces
I’m learning a lot about home ventilation and attic insulation this year.

Our home is pretty old – fortunately, it’s pretty liveable and in decent condition. No fundamental issues of mold, rot, insects, etc. – but there are quite a few strange conundrums there, one of which is the ventilation – or lack thereof – in our “attics” behind the kneewalls, as well as what I’d call the true attic at the apex of the roof.

There is a ventilation fan on the south side of the house, in the true attic area over Lucia’s room. However, it was not in operation during the home inspection, and it appears not to be working at all at the moment. We can’t even properly tell if it’s hooked up to the home wiring, and if so, where. The closest kneewall area to it is mostly filled by the built-out closet space that someone added in semi-recent history, obscuring the view of the space between the rafters where wiring might otherwise be visible. Usually such units also have a thermostat which causes them to kick on when it gets hot, but there is no control panel visible ANYWHERE in proximity to it. What the fuck.

The southwestern side of the roof (over our bedroom), meanwhile, gets quite hot. Really, the whole upstairs gets very toasty, but especially that room. There is no insulation at all behind the slanted portion of the wall – just airspace between the plaster and lathe and the inside of the roof. As far as we can tell, there is 0 insulation in the true attic space as well – the ceilings are frigid in winter and toasty warm in summer. This is what is currently inspiring me to just cut a goddamn hole in between the rafters over the upstairs landing and go the fuck up there and lay down some batts.

I went poking around in the crawlspace yesterday evening looking at the polystyrene baffles left there by a previous owner. These are normally used to allow airflow between spaces like our kneewalls and attic (when they are actually insulated with batts or other insulation fill, so it provides a rigid channel that keeps the fluff from blocking airflow needed in an operation that includes a fan drawing air out of the attic space), or between soffit vents to the outside and attic spaces. I found that the polystyrene baffles fit right into the spaces in the rafters – yay! - leaving a goodly chunk of space there for insulation, if we can find something rigid that can slide into the space underneath to shield the room within from the hot hot heat (some 1-1.5 inch radiant barrier might work). However, I could not determine if the soffit vents are open at all. Given, I was looking for light from the outside on a cloudy, rainy evening, but I didn’t see a thing. Since our fan is not operating, this might not be a problem as of yet. Also, the kneewall attic space was quite dry – very warm, but quite dry. The usual problem with improper ventilation and insulation, aside from poor temp control, is that humidity condenses in these uncontrolled spaces – either humid attic air condenses on cooler interior walls, or the reverse, and damages the wall material as well as making a happy home for molds and rot to wreck your living space. Our kneewall attics are dry and mold-free, however that may be because the upstairs is often closer to the temp of the attics, and there isn’t a lot of humidity being pumped into the living space OR the attic spaces. Except during the winter, I suppose – and then it isn’t a whole lot, just enough to moisten the air – not akin to the steam after a shower.

I half wonder if the fan isn’t currently working because someone opted to unwire it without de-installing it. Or maybe it stopped working – if there are no open soffit vents, it could have been struggling to vent hot air because there was no intake to complement the exhaust and broken down.

So, the questions remain – should we attempt to rehabilitate/replace the ventilation fan? If we do, will we have to actually open holes in the soffits where there are vented covers under the eaves?

My first instinct is to at least attempt to put the radiant barrier insulation along with the baffles in the slanty walls over our bedroom to at least reduce some of the heat conduction, and maybe fulfill my fantasy of slicing a hole into the true attic and laying down some batts of insulation to keep things cooler now and warmer in the winter. I suspect this would also let me know what’s up in Lu’s room vs ours; hers looks as though it’s been newly drywalled whereas ours is plaster; whoever drywalled MAY have actually insulated her room properly from above when they did so.

As for the fan and soffits, that may need to wait a little; it feels as though some of it is DIYable, but the project as a whole may require professional consultation and perhaps professional labor, something I’m not quite ready to take on at this point in the season/our home investment.

Another reason I'm glad...
My old coworker from Birds Eye/Pinnacle emailed me while I was out yesterday with a company update - Pinnacle is being purchased by Hillshire Brands for $4.23 billion (about twice Pinnacle's value), and Hillshire is based in Chicago. She indicated that there are no immediate consolidation plans, but that it sounded as though Hillshire wants a central office with everyone there, so it may well be in the works even if it won't come to be for some time yet.

So, that happened.

I am extra glad that I didn't accept the position, because this would mean being asked to move BACK to the midwest (something I'm not currently open to) after hauling everything to NJ for a handful of years. I mean, there are a kajillion other reasons that are more significant making me glad I am not at Pinnacle anymore, but man. The facility they fixed up in Parsippany has only been operating for about 2 years! They turned over a bunch of employees when they moved from south Jersey to north Jersey, then another bunch when they shut down Green Bay; I can't imagine how many people they will have to replace now.

My old coworker said one person at least came to her and sympathized with how many people in Green Bay must have felt when the shutdown announcement was made 2 years ago. My old coworker, happily, seems like she'd be fine with a move to Chicago area, as she's unmarried with a history of moving around (she worked in France for a time, too!) and her family is from Green Bay originally, and it's only 3 hours north of Chicago. So, if she goes with them, that may work out well. Also, it will make her quite experienced with Birds Eye history, because she was the only R&D person to stay with the company during the move, and even with her relatively limited experience she's been THE go-to person for questions on BEF development history.

Ah, the world of business.

UPDATE: A flurry of activity followed Hillshire's bid for Pinnacle; Pilgrim's Pride and Tyson Foods both made bids for Hillshire, both including the stipulation that Hillshire abandon the Pinnacle purchase. Tyson came out the high bidder, and they just finalized the merger. Pinnacle is getting $163 million as a breakup fee since their purchase was called off. So, no merger, no move, false alarm. I emailed Michelle later and she said everyone in Parsippany was relieved, but she was a little sad as she could use a change of scenery - not necessarily a new job, but one not in in NJ.
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Misunderstood Atheism
My Facebook frienemy posted a video of a Christian comedian arguing against atheism and “nailing it.” As I rather expected, he seems to be operating under the illusion that atheism equates to being offended, being nihilistic, and blind to the beauty of humanity and the world. I’d let it pass as it’s-funny-to-its-intended-audience-who-cares, but I find it bothersome to have the stereotype of a jerky atheist perpetuated, as I imagine any number of Christians are bothered by the stereotpye of the intolerant, hypocritical Christian perpetuated.

Here is the video of his "Atheists are Irrational" bit:

Let me address this point-by-point:
Because there are problems with what he's saying.Collapse )

Brad Stine, the audience you’re addressing to is being misinformed about what atheism is, and what atheists believe, why they object to the insertion of religion into government and public education, and where they think morals come from if not from God or the Bible or any other deity or religious text. For someone so turned on to seeing the beauty in the world and humanity, you sound very angry. I am truly sorry if people in the standup comedy community were shitty to you for being a conservative Christian – no one should shit on your beliefs. They should have talked to you about them, even if they questioned them and didn’t share them, and they should have shown respect for you just as you should show respect for them.

Life is just too short to be judgmental and terrible to eachother - that's true whether you believe in God or not.

And now, Sky Cake.

This Old House of Lies
Home improvement websites and magazines are chock-full of inspiring ideas and beautiful remodel pictures. However, I’m bothered by some of the trends I see.

Subway tile – not that I have anything against it; it’s a basic bricklike shape and in solid neutral shades it’s a classic backsplash/wall covering. But it’s frickin’ EVERYWHERE in bath and kitchen remodels these days. Subway tile subway tile subway tile. Maybe it’s just because I have lived with 4x4 square tile pretty much my whole life, and I don’t see anything wrong with it. The strange thing is that I can’t seem to find any period-specific info on the popularity of the subway tile shape vs. square tile shape. Wikipedia doesn’t have anything! What madness is this? As a side note, I am unbothered by hexagonal tile; in fact, I think it’s totally awesome even though / because it’s wicked old school.

Open storage/shelving/floating shelves in kitchen – yes, it does make that wall look more open. But did you notice how those shelves are only stocked with some matching glasses, neatly stacked colorful bowls, and food cans and boxes stacked in military regiment rows? Sorry, my kitchen shit is not that neat. Such open storage in my kitchen would look significantly less coordinated and pretty. Even if it started with coordinated wares and neatly-stacked foods, it would degrade with use. That’s living for you. This is the same reason I don’t really like glass-front cabinets - same issue.

“Small” room suggestions – these are a bit laughable to me, as I have a home with small rooms. Many “small” rooms in articles are like 25%+ bigger than my rooms. Given, many tips to maximizing the appearance of space remain valid, such as using lighter colors, mirrors, and scaled-down furniture; but lacking that 1-2 extra feet of room length or width makes all the difference when you need more storage or whatnot, and NOT having that extra bit makes many suggestions moot. Bleh.

Idea incongruity – these are just specific to me and my home ambition, and not really attacks on the validity of the ideas in someone else’s home. Kitchen chandeliers and pendant lights, for instance, work great in a kitchen that has a nice island in place. So far I have not lived in one of those kitchens. Same goes for pot racks – I don’t think we can fit one into our kitchen, which is a shame since we have a lovely high ceiling. There’s just not a good spot to hang it over without obscuring something else. Then there's “room division” – yeah, cause I want a smaller feel in my small room. Do only rich people use these home decor mags?

Refinished cheap vintage – I recognize that this can totally happen, and it probably just takes time and effort to get something vintage and cool for not too much money. But just in looking at lighting fixtures on that are 1920-1930 vintage, or at least art deco, I’ve noticed that a number of them are massively overpriced (I think more than $300 is a lot; many exceed that, and some of the pieces are over $1000 – usually the ones with intricate metalwork). I’m guessing it’s scarcity – time + breakable glass + corrodible metal + out-of-print design = higher monetary value. Oh, and increased interest in vintage design probably plays into it too. Fortunately, that renewed interest has inspired many companies to make vintage-styled new fixtures, so perhaps it’s not that big a deal. In the meantime, though, DAAAAMN that’s a lot of money for some old stuff. As an aside, I will laugh so hard if designs of the 1980s-1990s come back when I’m an old lady.

Craigslist is also frequently named as a source of miscellaneous vintage, but I go on there looking for secondhand and often end up with 30% or more listings being for retailers, not individuals selling their old goods. Man, if I WANTED retail, I'd search retail. Get off the craigslists, you're crapping up my search results.

I forgot to mention here that in February we took Lucia for a behavioral evaluation, basically to ascertain if there was a professional opinion that she continue behavioral services through the school system when she starts preschool in May.

A young female doctor brought us into her office, which was outfitted not only with her desk but a small round conference table, a low scool desk, a rack of toys, and a sink and cabinet setup. Lucia was allowed to play freely while the doctor asked questions of Chuck and me, then she tried to interact with Lucia and get her to perform certain tasks - draw a straight line, make a tower, make a "train" line of blocks, follow a 2 step instruction, instigate her to ask for help, etc. Lucia did fairly well, but she doesn't have alot of tolerance for being ordered around to such different tasks in close succession, especially by a stranger. She tolerated it decently for a little while, but after a while was fed up and it became difficult to corral her into the task the doc wanted to do.

The doctor was concerned that she wanted to play mostly with the blocks and the toy helicopter, rather than switching back and forth - this would be classifed as "obsessive behavior." I thought that was a bit odd, since it seemed pretty normal to me that a kid would pick a favorite and fixate on it, at least for a little while. She also has a habit of flapping her arms when either really excited or really upset, which is a sort of sensory-seeking behavior.Overall the doc thought that yes, behavioral services should continue into school, and that at this point Lucia probably falls somewhere in the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Added Edit: the specific diagnosis she made was PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified). However, at this age, this could just be a blip on the developmental radar that won't have any serious long-term consequences.

This really comes as no shock, as I myself probably fall into that spectrum a bit. I'm massively uncomfortable in new social situations without any structure, and given the choice between free socializing and doing some task, I'd MUCH rather do a task. That I managed to fit in with the Sushi Meetup Group in RI is a small miracle; I tried it out on a whim, and it turned out great because a number of people there were a bit like me (and I guess an enthusiasm for sushi creates a bit of a structure in which to operate). As for obsessive behavior - well, look at my nerdy life so far. Chuck is quite similar.

I'm not really all that worried about the diagnosis overall; it means Lu will get some extra attention going into school which she likely will need - potential autism aside, she is a strong-willed child and will need firm but compassionate guidance. All kids have challenges to overcome as they grow; this just happens to be her set of challenges. My only worry just at the moment is her discomfort with other children. She showed some of this with the therapy group in Delaware - a few other kids were quite loud and rambunctious, which she is not fond of - and just yesterday she ran away when the little boy next door who is about her age ran up excitedly to say hello. Preschool will hopefully be helpful in getting her used to other kids because her "special needs" class will be maybe 6 kids, with about 3 teachers. I just wish we had the family meetup group like we did in Green Bay; as infrequently as we attended it was at least something to get Lu out and about with other kids and adults.

I suppose it's part of being a parent to always feel a bit like you should be doing more to help your child adjust to the world. It is, however, important to remember that a child is its own person, and a parent cannot force them to be and do all the things that a parent thinks the child should, even if the child is quite malleable and cooperative. A child needs to find out who they are outside of a family context, and the process starts early.

Domestic prejudice
I have these internal moments of realizing my own prejudice that make me uncomfortable but are very hard to surmount. A recent moment had to do with young girls/women whose ambition is to be a stay-at-home wife/mother. I don’t think I feel as much weirdness around adult women who are already IN the role of stay-at-home parent and homemaker (maybe because many often worked before motherhood), but for some reason that ambition in a younger female makes me squirm inside.

Why is this?

One reason may be that I myself am not a stay-at-home parent, and I never saw that role as my high goal. Also, most women I am friends with are also working/professionals. But my own MOTHER was a stay-at-home parent, and she rocked it hard. She cooked, cleaned, crafted, sewed, made sure we made it to our checkups and dental appointments and eye exams. She only worked outside the home when my sister and I were beyond elementary school, doing independent wallpapering and painting so that she had the flexibility to start after we left for school in the morning and could get back home around the same time as we did. Another good friend of mine is not a parent (avowed child-free) and has been more or less a housewife for most of the time I have known her, and somehow that doesn’t creep me out – this may be because she HAS held jobs, and has independently sold her crafts online, and became more "domestic" when she was in her mid-20s.

But teenage girls saying “I want to get married, keep house, and have kids” creeps me out to no end. Is it because they’re so young that they might end up regretting the choice to not learn professional skills later, when they perhaps feel constrained in a stay-at-home role without the tools to explore outside employment? Is it because it plays into a patriarchal model that seems to give less power to a wife, and puts her in a vulnerable position economically (even setting aside divorce, what if the husband is disabled or dies?)? Is it because it goes with the flow of gender determinism in which it is assumed that women’s role is that of homemaker and child-nurturer, and therefore NOT a role of professional and provider? It may well be all of those things.

I feel as if a teenage boy professed that he wanted to be a stay-at-home parent, I would applaud him rather than feel anxious for him (though I might wonder if he fully understood the demands of the role, because I also have the prejudice that many young people, males especially, don’t know/can’t deal with all the gory details of childrearing and housekeeping). But I also feel that society at large assumes a young man will take on a profession outside the home, and that he will be prepared for that; even if he becomes a stay-at-home spouse/parent he at least will have an idea of how the professional world works should he desire or require entrance into that world.

When someone suggests that young women should be offered an education in homemaking and childrearing, I also balk – primarily because of the specific mention of young women rather than young people as a whole. Young men should absolutely be given a course in how to keep house and care for children – not only is it plausible that they may opt for a homemaking role, but there are important life skills to be learned in housekeeping for all. Shopping for healthy food and reading nutrition labels, cooking food to safe temperatures, doing laundry, maintaining appliances, cleaning a home, mending clothes, keeping a budget, balancing a checkbook, basic childcare… I’m sure there are more. These could simply be categorized under “Life Skills” and there’s no need to specify a particular gender that needs it.

Everyone needs to how not to suck at life. Not just men, not just women, everyone. If both genders didn’t learn these overlapping skills we’d all be struggling to learn late in the game and/or stuck in an awkward symbiosis with the opposite sex.

I wonder if I can get around this prejudice a bit if I think about the individual skills of homemaking and childrearing (cooking, cleaning, maintenance, child care, etc) as a career in itself. After all, childcare professionals are professionals – so are cooks, housekeepers, handymen/women. If someone’s ambition is to keep house and raise kids, well, they’d better be prepared to do it as though a paycheck depended on it – ie., to the best of their ability. They should ROCK that shit. A good homemaker isn’t lounging on a couch eating bonbon; they’re getting shit done so the family can have a non-filthy home to live in and good food to eat.

Homemaking is a big job, and I should respect those who aspire to it even if those individuals aren’t eligible to vote yet.

Lady Marmalade
I am determined to make some marmalade. I got a sudden yen for it last weekend while I was toasting up some English muffins, realizing that we really didn't have much in the way of jellies or jams to spread on toasted baked goods. I actually did make do with a bit of Honey Citron "tea" mix as it is very marmalade-esque, and it was pretty nice, but I know I can make some marmalade myself.

I then remembered seeing marmalade recipes using kumquats, which are curiously delicious fruits with tart juice/flesh and sweet rinds. I ran out and snagged some from the grocery store, and looked about for recipes. However, the internet offers some different methods for kumquat marmalade, mostly having to do with the prep of the fruits themselves. Perhaps I'm being obtuse, but the instruction to "remove segments" from kumquats seems silly - they're ridiculously small - so recipes advising to simply slice thinly win my vote. Other advice often included saving the seeds and any pith, so that it can be gathered and tied in a cheesecloth bundle to infuse with the rest of the sliced fruit and juice. The Joy of Cooking does not advise this step, but pectin is derived from these parts of citrus fruits, so perhaps it is valid. I still think a scientific experiment would be useful (though I think I will save that for a bigger batch).

So this weekend I am definitely making some kumquat marmalade. It's a long process; the fruit must soak in water to extract the pectin for about a full day before proceeding with the standard jam/preserve process. I just need to make sure I end up with a proper 'lade, rather than a citrusy syrup (which I'm sure would still be delicious, but harder to keep on a toast slice).

While referencing the Joy of Cooking, I noticed another recipe that sounded intriguing: Lime Marmalade. I looooove limes. The smell of a freshly sliced lime is definitely in my top 5 sensory experiences. And, limes are usually cheap and readily available in most markets here, especially H-Mart. I'm intrigued to try the recipe out, though I'm a bit confused with the instruction to essentially discard the peel of the limes (and extra lemons) called for in the ingredients. The finely sliced citrus peels are, to my mind, the characteristic feature of a marmalade. So, why eliminate them? At the least I would expect the zest to be sliced and used, if not the pithy bits. The internet yields some recipes that call for this, but also many that call simply for juicing the limes, removing the remaining pulp, and slicing up the rinds. Well, anyhow... I think it would be interesting to make a ginger-lime marmalade. Eventually.

So, for about a year and half I have listened heavily to the Nerdist podcast, hosted primarily by Chris Hardwick and co-hosted by Jonah Ray and Matt Mira. Generally they do episodes centered around a guest from somewhere in the entertainment world – frequently comics, but also actors, musicians, writers, the occasional video game creator, etc. – though sometimes it’s a host-only podcast, and those are still really entertaining because all the hosts are comics and fully capable of launching me into fits of hysteria right in the middle of whatever I’m doing.

Chris Hardwick has amazing hosting skills going way back. He was co-host on the MTV show Singled Out, which I watched the shit out of as a young teen, aaaaaand I had a silly schoolgirl crush on him because he was cute and funny and not a ‘90s dudebro. It’s been weirdly nostalgic and fun but still weird because through the podcast I’ve gotten to hear a lot about the old days of his hosting the MTV show as well as his adventures of the years since – doing a Rob Zombie movie, being an alcoholic, getting to genuinely do standup comedy, doing voiceover work, and so forth. Beyond that he does a lot of digging into the quirks of the “comic brain” as he calls it, which include being overly sensitive yet driven to perform, self-conscious, socially anxious and awkward. It’s really fascinating to me.

He also shared that he was roommates with Wil Wheaton for a while (and they’re still friends!). If my young teenage self had learned that, she probably would have passed out from fangirling too hard (I had a prepubescent crush on Wesley Crusher, which I know is different than having a crush on a real person, BUT STILL).

Creepy stalker-like feelings aside, when I listen to the Nerdist podcast I am usually super happy. Laughter feels good. I only wish I had discovered it in 2010/2011 when work was sucking and parenting was hard and I could just have used a happy place to be for a few hours a week, where people consistently talked about the importance of doing something you love (whether or not you do it for a living), working hard at one's art, and taking risks to make your life better. It might not have spurred me to act sooner on my wish to get the hell out of my last job, but it at least would have raised my morale a bit.

The quote from Futurama (from Fry, about his love for the original Star Trek series), “When I didn’t have any friends, it made me feel like maybe I did,” really applies to me and how I feel about the Nerdist podcast. I mean, I have real friends; I just really relate to the hosts, and while I'm alone in a laboratory making up formulas or maintaining equipment, I feel like I’m connecting to human beings in a way that I intellectually know is not substantive, but still feels really nice. I’ve always found great therapeutic benefit in fiction, and the feeling is similar.

Update Edit, 4-24-14: Aaaaaand I just had a dream where I walked around a town at night, more or less on a "we're lost but it's fun" kind of adventure, with Chris Hardwick. We were laughing and joking and having a super fun time and in my dream I was totally crushing on him, but he still had a girlfriend, so what started as a fun adventure with someone cool became awkward stifled feelings time. Uuuuuugh now I have a weird dent in my heart today like I actually had a thwarted crush. Soooo creepy. I think I just need to go home and make out with my husband.

What's this? What's this? No, really, what IS this?
We have a mystery floor. In what would probably be called a dining room (which we are now using as a sewing room), the floor is a dark-stained wood with almost no sheen. It is scuffed from when we moved in, making lighter-colored marks (almost like sidewalk chalk marks, though not as heavy) here and there.

When wet, the wood looks deep and rich in color and the grain really pops, but as soon as it's dry it's back to looking dull again. So, the question is, what finish is this? Signs point to it having a penetrating oil finish possibly with wax. I'm guessing it's that, if only because it's pretty much certainly not polyurethane.

So now I'm wondering if we should wax the floor, or put a different finish on it (if possible). Waxing might make it slippery and might also make it a pain to maintain (supposedly a waxed floor should be rewaxed every 6 months). But given the age of our floors and some of the small gaps between floorboards, I'm a bit nervous about polyurethane. I feel like most of the polyurethane coated wood floors on apartments we've rented have not been great on older wood floors (or it could just be that the floors were poorly cared for, period). Plus I'd be willing to bet that I CAN'T polyurethane the floors if they aren't already prepped for it.

Mom called me up last night and was like "Don't wax the floor!" Apparently, at my grandma's apartment she rented while in home care there was a wood floor that had lost its polyurethane finish, and the home care workers found a can of floor wax and applied it - only to turn the area they'd waxed into a skating rink. Well, you're not supposed to put floor wax on anything except floors designed to take it, soooo... duh? I know she's trying to help, but sometimes the way she tries to help is not helpful and just bothersome. She means well. I agree with her, though, that we should call in an expert for an estimate.

If/when we do, I'll have them look at that room as well as the upstairs landing, which I would prefer to have professionally refinished as it would require some serious sanding (there is residual paint from some point in the past) in addition to whatever finish we put on. I might even have them do the stairs,as the tread and risers are painted underneath the carpet runner, which looks a bit crap. I'd probably have them take a look at the living room floor, because it's crappy and gappy near the kitchen door and the finish has seen better days. We probably won't have them do all this work (likely just the upstairs landing) but I bet I could ask the finish question while they're in doing a free estimate.

As an addendum, we really do need a new front door this year. The one we have is a bit beat up (scratches and dents), the bottom does not meet the threshold properly, and it's made of metal. The front door leads straight into the living room, and during the super-cold weather a chill just rolls off (and from under) the door. A fiberglass door would be better insulated, and if we got a new one we could also fit it properly with a nice threshold and it probably wouldn't cost much more than $1000 with installation. The back door can stay shitty looking; it's a back door. But we relax in that living room, and it's hard to do when you're getting a draft and looking at scratches and dents a a gap so big underneath that you can see daylight.
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Does not compute.
While I was driving up to New Hampshire for my grandmother’s funeral, I found myself surfing radio stations about halfway through the trip – about outside of Worcester, MA. Early on I found it funny and comforting to hear that the Southern New England rock station I found didn’t deviate much from what I had heard all through my time spent living there: lots of grunge-era songs. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

As I headed more directly north, though, I found myself flipping through the channels again, and found a religious station. It’s my guilty pleasure to subject myself to weird Christian entertainment stuff on the radio while traveling – I sometimes wonder if I’m just trying to find an overtly redeeming quality in it, and maybe some understanding of it all. Most of the time I just end up wrinkling my brow, or laughing out loud.

This time I landed at the top of a program that was apparently about crises of faith – especially among young people, who would lose faith and leave the church as they left high school and went into college and/or the real world. Now, one concept that the hosts brought up was quite logical: that it’s a high expectation to think that no one would question the religion they were brought up in, and that parents/teachers/mentors should not merely say to children “do what this book says, ‘cause that’s what we do.” Rather than culture a blind following, they should encourage a thoughtful faith in children. Which makes sense! But personally, it still does not compute. I don’t have that faith, and I don’t really want to, either.

The guest host told a story of how when he was 17 and suicidal, his mother gave him a Bible, not really even knowing herself what to do with it, but thinking it might do him some good. Lo and Behold, it did – it became a lifeline for him and he managed to live through that chapter in his life. Good for him, but I’m willing to bet that an introduction to God/Jesus doesn’t bring every depressed teen back from the brink of suicide. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.

So, basically, my brain just hit a wall of “does not compute.” A similar thing happened when a motivational speaker presented at my high school. He just kind of rambled on about his mom sensing something bad that happened to him at school, and how when he was down and out and needed money to eat, he found a $20 bill on the ground. Uh. Okay. What am I supposed to be learning here?

Does not compute.

There was a brief snippet in between programs after the piece on crises of faith that cracked me up, though. I think it was about sin, and how people sometimes put themselves in a position to be tempted to sin when they should really be trying to stay out of those tempting situations – think of being on a diet, but constantly going to the donut shop or burger joint where you’re surrounded by high-calorie temptations - and people who aren’t on a diet. Makes sense again! But the example that the female voiceover gave killed me. She honed STRAIGHT IN on the temptation of a relationship with a married man – she pointed out that not only was he sinning by betraying his marriage vows, but that you would be an accessory to sin by carrying on with him (just because you’re not married doesn’t make you sinless, basically). Also makes sense, in traditional marriage structure. She then went on to suggest that you should not meet behind closed doors with a married man – leave the door open. Don’t put yourself in the position of temptation. Keep email correspondence to a married man professional, and if it gets personal, copy his wife on the address list.


I have heard Penn Jillette (super atheist libertarian) say that if someone is arguing that, without commandments to follow – and the afterlife punishments promised if you don’t follow them – there is nothing stopping everyone from raping and killing, they’re probably the ones you should worry about raping and killing you. If a made-up rule, and not an innate sense of morality/empathy/sympathy, is what is stopping you from raping and killing (and banging married men)… just, wow. I think most people understand that hurting others and betraying trust is wrong; many of those that still do those things just find that some personal reward is worth the repercussions of the wrong (a few others are probably sociopaths). If you’re so attracted to a man who is married that you’d strip off your clothes the second the door was closed or talk dirty the moment the conversation is totally private, and you know that messing around with him would be hurtful to his marriage/family etc., then yeah, you probably ought not close that door or exchange that email. Damn, girl.

The way the advice was delivered was just so pat and “Just say no!” that it was funny to me. It does make total sense but is still hilariously patronizing, like so many religious-founded ideas sound to me.

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